Canterbury prop Wyatt Crockett could be in line to add to his six tests for the All Blacks in Saturday's Bledisloe Cup rematch in Auckland if Tony Woodcock is sidelined with injury.
Today's contact training will be crucial to determining the 31-year-old's fitness and availability after damaging ribs in Sydney last weekend.
All Black coach Steve Hansen indicated specialist cover would be used if Woodcock was absent, meaning a rare chance for Crockett who has made just six appearances since 2009.
Meanwhile Hansen is demanding much more from his lineout for the rematch in Auckland, describing their work in Sydney as “shoddy”.
It's a major work-on for a New Zealand team eager for improvements, despite snaring a first-up away win that was far more commanding than the 27-19 scoreline suggested.
The heat will go on the young locking department and the other jumpers this week - along with forwards coach Mike Cron - as the All Blacks look for more scoring opportunities off this crucial set-piece.
The All Blacks scored both their tries off scrums but failed to utilise the width and speed that comes with clean lineout ball.
Hansen laid the blame with the often messy delivery of the ball from the winning lineout jumper to the halfback. That delay cramped the effectiveness of the potent backs division.
“I think we had 14 lineouts and probably played off about six of them,” he lamented.
“You have just halved your possession platform that you can play off - and mainly through our own fault.
“Our delivery to the halfback was pretty shoddy and we need to get cracking and get some relationship meetings there and get it sorted out.” Hooker Keven Mealamu said the forwards had to accept that criticism from their head coach and work at rectifying it. They hadn't conceded any lineouts and had stolen one off the Wallabies but they had failed to maximise that.
Hansen continued his strong theme about the All Blacks needing to improve, no matter what the scoreline was in their previous match. But he wouldn't be drawn into a need for improvement in refereeing, with Ireland's Alain Rolland whistling 27 penalties in the opening match that rarely flowed.
Wales' Nigel Owen is in charge this weekend. Meanwhile the Wallabies prognosis continues to deteriorate as they strive to resuscitate their campaign without surgery-bound world-class flanker David Pocock.
The inspirational leader yesterday provided the latest setback to a squad already reeling from last weekend's ineffectual performance when it was confirmed he required an operation to address cartilage damage in his right knee.
Pocock has keyhole surgery today and once he is released from hospital his priority will be to help nurse rookie openside's Michael Hooper and Liam Gill though the most daunting assignment of their careers.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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